The greatest artists are always brilliant storytellers, in one way or another, and there is no doubting that Cyndi Lauper is a great communicator. I’ve been to many of her shows over the years, and Cyndi Lauper is all about connecting with people; connecting with her fans. She kicked off her show at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento last night by jumping off the stage and making her way up to the middle of the crowd, doing much of her singing surrounded by those who adore her and love not just her music, but what she’s done with her life, how she lives it, and what she gives back to the global community. Throughout her set, her stories in-between were unfiltered (apart from a few word choices out of respect for a nine year old up front), meandering, and fascinating… and going by the set list taped on the floor, passed into some of the time planned for singing. But when she sings, it’s truly a marvel, with her gift of voice and performance, and as she paced up and down the crowd up front (which instantly went from an all seated show to a standing GA free for all), she made personal connections with each of us – a look, a touch with her hand – because she is one of those earnest people… that rare breed who “made it” but it is not about themselves, but giving back… through songs, stories, laughter, experiences… and of course her brilliant music. Touring for the 30th anniversary of her debut album, She’s So Unusual, she is playing all those classic songs from that seminal 80s work, along with a bonus or two. I obviously go to a lot of concerts, but Cyndi Lauper was a true icon for me growing up in the 80s, and this was definitely the best experience I’ve had at one of her shows. Definitely a must see tour this year, and I’ll personally be doing it all again tonight at Mountain Winery in Saratoga.
Who: Cyndi Lauper
Supporting: Hunter Valentine
Venue: Crest Theatre
Where: Sacramento, California
Promoter: Sherpa Concerts
When: June 18, 2013
Seating: Row B, Seat 5 (front row left section; though ended up front row center standing against stage halfway through first Cyndi Lauper song)
Sacramento is my “home” metropolitan city, but unfortunately, we don’t get too many shows like this one, so I was thrilled when I learned Cyndi Lauper would be hitting the Crest, as well as one of my favorite venues, Mountain Winery, so it was a lock to go to both.
- Kiyomi McCloskey (vocals, guitar)
- Laura Petracca (drums)
- Aimee Bessada (guitar, keyboards)
- Leanne Bowes (bass)
Hunter Valentine is an alternative rock band from Ontario, Canada. Their music style has a lot of range, from alt rock to punk. They have two studio albums, The Impatient Romantic (2007) and Collide and Conquer (2012). You can check out one of their single, “Liar Liar” on their official site, www.huntervalentine.com.
Hearing them for the first time, lead vocalist Kiyomi McCloskey has a really compelling voice… more “husky” in tone like Johnette Napolitano but also able to maintain with some powerful rock vocals, like Joan Jett. I thought their opening set was fantastic, and already purchased their two albums to catch up on their work. They did an excellent job waking up the audience in preparation for Cyndi Lauper.
Ordinarily, I would publish photos of the opener, but I did not have clarity on the photo policy for the night until afterwards, and had thought it was no photos and was being respectful of that, so apologies for the misunderstanding and missed opportunity to include some photos of Hunter Valentine here.
- Steve Gaboury (pianist/keyboards)
- Bette Sussman (keyboards)
- Keith Mack (guitar)
- William Wittman (bass)
- Scooter Warner (drums)
Having just turned 40 this year, the 80s (all of it) was the most influential decade of my life, especially pop culture and music in particular. Growing up with MTV, the artists that had the biggest impact on me in the early 80s – from ’80-’84 – were (in no particular order) Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Billy Idol, Duran Duran, Hall & Oates, and… Cyndi Lauper. Those were the artists that really broke big in the mainstream, and were enduring over time. They each had a spectacular number of hits.
Cyndi Lauper’s first album, She’s So Unusual, which was the inspiration for this current tour, celebrating what was accomplished 30 years ago, was released in 1983.
During the show last night, Cyndi Lauper talked about the past, and some of what used to be, what was… even little things, like the difference in sound quality between analog vinyl records vs CDs and downloads today. Some of the soul of music has been lost in the past 30 years, and the music industry does not remotely resemble what was.
So it was interesting to see her reach out to that young girl who came out for the concert, and try to convey some of how things used to be. For me, the tour doesn’t just celebrate her awesome album, but the way things used to be, and it is sad that the younger generation of kids today – who are the same age now that I was in 1983 – will never know how great we had it back then.
Just looking at the list of artists I noted above, and thinking about those years, and 1983 in particular… Madonna released her self-titled album in July 1983 (which included “Holiday”, “Lucky Star”, and “Borderline”), then Cyndi Lauper released her debut just three months later in October (with “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, “Time After Time”, “She Bop”, “All Through the Night”, and “Money Changes Everything”, Billy Idol released Rebel Yell the following month in October (featuring “Rebel Yell”, “Eyes Without a Face”, “Flesh for Fantasy”, and “Catch My Fall”), while the same month Duran Duran released Seven and the Ragged Tiger (with “Union of the Snake”, “New Moon on Monday”, and “The Reflex”). All of these albums were released within four months of one another, and serving as bookend we had Michael Jackson’s Thriller released in late 1982 and Prince’s Purple Rain debuting in the Summer of 1984.
It was such a different time. Today, we seem to have thousands and thousands of bands releasing new music constantly, in a short attention span society. Songs don’t have time to breathe, let alone artists develop a following, and it’s all “free” one way or another (whether it’s streaming or on YouTube or some other service) and younger generations seem to find it all quite disposable. If you don’t anticipate something, let alone pay for it, it has no value.
I remember, growing up, watching Madonna’s famous performance of “Like A Virgin”, and seeing Michael Jackson’s live moonwalk on TV… these were events. But in that time, there were three broadcast channels and cable just getting off the ground. Now there is endless streams of information, entertainment, and time-wasting junk. We don’t have pop cultural “moments” anymore. At best, a small blip in a news cycle, and it’s usually sensationalist garbage – junk food for the mind – to keep viewers past the commercial break.
But there was a time when it was all different, and 1983 was at the center of it, more or less.
When Cyndi Lauper broke through with her first single – “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” – it was at a time when maybe the idea of girls having fun was kind of a novel idea (depending on the definition of fun). People hear the song now, and forget what it was like in 1983. It was the dawn of a new era, and a lot of changes. As a point of context, it was only a month after this album was released that 100 million Americans watched the television broadcast film, The Day After, with a gritty portrayal of nuclear armageddon. Cyndi Lauper’s music and message marked a strong contrast.
There was recently a great docuseries on NatGeo – The 80s: The Decade That Made Us – that does an excellent job of refreshing one’s memory (if you were there) and maybe giving those who weren’t an idea of what an exciting and revolutionary time that it really was, and how much pop culture drove and inspired those changes and overall transformation. At the start of the first of six hour long episodes, they frame it all by remind us that in the beginning of the 80s, “America was in a very dark place“, and, per Kurt Andersen of Spy Magazine, “[t]he very beginning of the 1980s, it’s still the 1970’s, which is to say malaise was till the operative condition“.
Pop culture – music especially – was in large part instrumental in bringing some color to our culture. And what more colorful an ambassador than Cyndi Lauper – in both appearance and music?
While the 90s was the decade in which woman bands and singer songwriters became all the rage, it wasn’t so in the 80s – particularly the early 80s. I think Cyndi Lauper confounded people. Who was she? What was she really singing about? Why does she look so… unusual?
But the younger generation, my generation, totally got it, and she became an icon and idol for us. She spoke to us. And she had a beautiful voice, amazing songs, and she was optimistic, and made the future seem brighter and better.
I’ve had this theory of late that everyone is “weird” to some degree or other (good or bad or indifferent), but it’s those with money and resources that have the luxury of indulging it and, for lack of a better turn of phrase, being themselves. There is that old adage about wealthy people being eccentric. I think that is misleading, or missing a bigger truth. I think we all are, but for most, there is no time for it or it is inappropriate or not consistent with one’s work and/or personal life. Rich and successful people just don’t have the same limitations, so it comes out more obviously to the casual observer.
Well, as I began to articulate in my opening, I get the sense that Cyndi Lauper is a really thoughtful and decent person, while most with her success would probably be focused more inward. I can only speculate, but I get the sense that Cyndi Lauper doesn’t tour for any monetary reasons, but because she loves sharing her music and connecting with fans. At the Crest last night, it was all about those connections on so many different levels. And she has important messages – and feelings – to share. I think she has true purpose in life, understands what it is, and acts on it every day. Which is probably why she is so prolific – not just in music but in all the arts and charity and other causes as well. One only needs to visit her website to understand that she is a woman who wants to do, not merely to be.
So… how was the actual concert? The music?
Fucking fantastic. Ever facet of it was amazing. And I felt very fortunate to be right up front. What an honor, really. If my 10-year old self from 1983 only knew what was in store for me, I don’t think I would have believed it.
Cyndi Lauper has always been one of my favorite vocalists, and time has always been an ally of hers, as her voice sounds better than ever. She is still beautiful, stunning, and radiant, and has superb fashion instincts.
I love that album, and the songs, and I’m actually a fan of artists doing full albums like this – it’s really something special, and with the trend these days being singles and not albums, all the better. Again, I’ll take the way things used to be on that front as well.
One thing is for sure – no two Cyndi Lauper concerts are the same, and I’m quite sure she’s never told the same story the same way, or even with the same asides. She is very stream of consciousness, as some of the most creative among us sometimes are, but it offered a fascinating journey into the mind of Cyndi Lauper, along with the music. I think her set ran nearly two hours, and there were only a dozen songs, so that should give some idea of the quantity and quality of the storytelling that framed the experience.
The highlight for me was at one point during the show, she looked into my eyes and started singing directly to me, and I was kind of hypnotized for that moment, and then she reached down and grabbed my hat and kind of brought me back to full consciousness.
Cyndi Lauper is all about bringing people together and taking them on a journey. There is great power in that, and she seems to wield it with all the most positive of intentions.
Loved the show. Amazing experience. And really looking forward to the show at Mountain Winery tomorrow night.
Below is an image of Cyndi Lauper’s set list from the stage:
Below is my recollection of what was actually played at the Crest last night (two songs omitted due to lack of time)…
- Money Changes Everything
- Girls Just Want To Have Fun
- When You Were Mine
- Time After Time
- She Bop
- All Through The Night
- I’ll Kiss You
- He’s So Unusual
- Yeah Yeah
- True Colors
Below are some photos of from the Cyndi Lauper concert at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento on June 18, 2013 (click any image for higher resolution versions of each photo):